An abandoned South Memphis building will soon be demolished and replaced with a facility that will provide youth in that community with an alternative to gang activity.
Details of the nearly 3,000 square-foot "Safe House" were provided during a press conference at the Riverview Community Center last week. It will feature computer workstations, a music room, and a reading area, as well as meeting and office space. Youth will also be able to receive mentorship and apply for scholarship programs there. Plans are for the facility to operate 24 hours a day.
It's the first of several Safe Houses that the Bikers and Social Clubs 4 Change (BSC4C) — a nonprofit organization comprised of motorcyclists who are combating issues impacting urban communities — hope to establish in disadvantaged areas throughout the city.
"We want people to see that the choice is yours," said BSC4C's Clark "Preacha" Chambers. "We don't want [kids] to think that they're bound anymore to [gangs]. Our whole objective is to make a difference and [encourage] people to make a change."
The Shelby County Land Bank provided BSC4C with the property for its first Safe House. It will be located on Florida Street near Mallory.
In September 2013, the area was identified by law enforcement as one of the spots used by the Riverside Rollin' 90's Crips. A 4.6-mile radius of Riverside bordered by South Parkway, West Mallory, I-55, and Florida Street was declared a "Safety Zone" by the Multi-Agency Gang Unit. Gang members in those areas are prohibited from associating in public, intimidating or assaulting witnesses to gang activity, possessing guns, and any other form of illicit activity.
Members of the biker group say they hope to collaborate with neighborhood gang members to maintain safety around the forthcoming Safe House in South Memphis.
"We want to embark on a relationship with them so with these Safe Houses, people will be able to come and go," Chambers said. "We're looking for them to allow us the opportunity because these gangs are in these communities [all the time], and we're not necessarily in these communities.
"We want them to help police these Safe Houses and keep them safe," Chambers said. "But that doesn't mean that the computers need to walk out. We don't want any fights [or] any killing. We don't want to create more of a problem. We want to bring solutions to the problems that exist."
The first Safe House is projected to cost $560,000. The organization plans to raise the bulk of that money through its upcoming Memphis Bike Fest, along with private donations. The five-day event takes place July 22nd through the 26th at Tiger Lane.
BSC4C hopes to help change the stereotypical image of bikers through efforts such as its Safe House initiative.
"These young men and women, with these biker jackets on, could give us a feel of intimidation, but look at what they're doing in our community," said Councilman Harold Collins. "This work is hard, and many times we meet resistance because we have a lack of resources, lack of opportunities, and a lack of commitment. But these men and women who ride these bikes are steadfast in their commitment. For that, we, as a city and community ought to be truly grateful for what they do."
The organization plans to establish additional Safe Houses in the Frayser, New Chicago, Smokey City, and Lauderdale Courts communities.